Tunes of 2007

Added: 19-1-2008

lists. we all love them. just so happens that at this time of year some of us love them long time. various emails have been flying back and forth between a few of us, all around the topic of Tunes of 2007. I had five minutes so I thought I’d post a list of dope stuff from 2007 right here. disclaimer: you have to remember that I spent most of this year walking through God knows where so the only stuff I was buying was from iTunes and it usually took the form of indie/alt-country/rock albums. to my shame I can say I only bought records three times this year – and I’ve only played the ones I bought about twice which probably explains why there ain’t much vinyl action on this list below – I can’t even remember what I bought. anyway, here goes..

Single of the year: Technology Stole My Vinyl by Moodyman.
Don’t need to say much more about this one, playing it in London was wicked, I still smile when I hear it

Album of the year: In Rainbows by Radiohead
Yes, it’s bleeding obvious. But yes, I did think it was that good.

What else…

I liked the Damn edits that I bought, good efforts there

$mall Change – Steviano Italiano / Nuff Man Live Fi Jah City – wicked little edited 7″ of Stevie Wonder singing in Italian, big boss drums underneath

Broken Social Scene presents Kevin Drew – Spirit if…
Candian rock, 17 people in the band, 1st in a new series of their albums where one band member gets to write all the songs. I love this stuff

Cinematic Orchestra – Ma Fleur
Not as good as Everyday, perhaps not even as good as Motion, but I liked it very much once I gave it a chance. extremely mellow

Common – Finding Forever
Kanye all over it, and extremely accessible, but there was still some good stuff on here, especially the Nina Simone sampling one, and even the Lilly Allen track where she’s singing bits of Rotary Connection

Elektrons – Red Light Don’t Stop
I read somewhere that this was supposedly like Soul II Soul’s first album if it came from Manchester…well, that’s bollocks. instead it’s got loads of different dance stuff on it, has Eska and Mopo Skeef amongst others and is basically the Electric Chair album. which is all good.

LCD Soundsytem – Sound of Silver
Another obvious choice, but this album really worked for me, I liked the fact that the dude had written songs (with good lyrics, comedy yes, but some of them nice and poignant)

Little Dragon – Little Dragon
How amazing is ‘Twice’? the album is…almost there. about 70% of it is great and solid, but the remainder is a bit of filler. mind you, when it’s good, it’s great…

Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before We Hit The Ground
I only discovered Modest Mouse this year…it’s a very angular pop guitar sound, lots of sections which are a bit ‘Will  you f**king stop that?’ and then they drop a killer chorus. I especially liked ‘Missed the boat’. While walking, all I wanted was tunes I could sing along with…

The New Pornographers – Challengers
This certainly falls into the singalong category…another Canadian supergroup, featuring Neko Case

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Delving around Pitchfork’s end of year best-of lists I decided to take a chance on this one – and what a result. it’s faggy electro-ish pop which is way better than the Scissor Sisters and has some quality bitchy lyrics. if you like glam Bowie sh*t with a stomp, this works

Polytechnic – Down til Dawn
British boys with guitars and choruses. 70% Wicked.

Disappointment of the year:
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
I was gutted. Among other things, how can a new album contain a re-recorded song off of their first EP?!

Almost disappointment of the year:
The National – Boxer
My favourite band of recent years released this in May…man I was so disappointed. until, that is, I heard it when I got back from the walk – on a stereo. now I get it.

Rediscovery of the year:
Big Star – #1 Record
Sweet lord did I devour this walking across Nevada. Harmonies, pleading mid 1970s country-rock (more of the rock) tunes, fantastic record.

Discovery of the year:
Billy Paul
Bllly Paul rules! I had no idea that the same fella who did ‘Me and Mrs Jones’ (ok, Dom did remind me that he did ‘Let the Dollar Circulate’) had such belters as ‘East’ (hugely deep!!) and ‘War of The Gods’ (the blueprint for Shadow’s ‘What Does Your Soul Look Like’) up his sleeve.

Guilty Pleasure of the year:
ELO – Strange Magic/Livin’ Thing
I can’t help but feel happy when I hear these two tunes. Shameful really.

All for now. If the project of 2006/7 was the walk across the Unites States of America, this year’s project is to infect everyone’s eardrums with quality tuneage. Coming soon to an Internet near you: The Heavy Medium. Internet radio for those who care about stuff and things.

Stuart                         Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From Cairo to New Hampshire

Added: 12-1-2008

the luxuries of library travel…this one from a hotel in Cairo where I have been meeting with Egyptian librarians and journalists about a forthcoming conference on tolerance…remember the Danish Cartoons Crisis? yep, that was a time. my organisation are following up on the fallout from that incident and trying to put together a programme to take place here in Egypt later in the year that addresses the subjects of tolerance, freedom of expression and libraries, (mostly) from a Muslim perspective. it’s fascinating stuff, real cultural dialogue, and so far all is going well in the planning…

well, that’s work. when I last wrote it was about the Iowa caucuses and since then we’ve had the New Hampshire turnaround…I went to bed the night before after watching a Newsnight interview with a senior America pollster. he assurred me that Obama would win the Primary and that the only question would be by how much. consequently when I got into work the next morning I was amazed to see Hilary had won…

it’s clear that there is plenty of this Democratic race left to run, perhaps more than the US and UK media thought after Obama’s win in Iowa. seems like most of the papers and pollsters got New Hampshire ridiculously wrong – and as I, Joe Public, get my information from these people I demand that they do better! it cannot be right that I go to bed thinking one thing and waking up experiencing another. they simply must try harder.

was it the famous ‘welling up moment’ that did it for Hilary in New Hampshire? I actually haven’t seen it, but I guess it really is true that a little human emotion goes a long way. I read that Hilary scored higher amongst women voters as a result of this and the perceived ‘ganging up’ that occurred against her in the Democratic debate last Saturday (I believe that when asked about her likeability Obama called her ‘likeable enough’. a diss I suppose, but not that far from the truth?). this raises a few issues for me – we really do need our politicians to be human I guess, as evidenced in the ‘Well, you could go for a beer with Dubya’ argument which prizes an ability to be good in the bar (I always thought George didn’t drink? never mind, you can drink for him here, even if it’s a bit out of date) over an ability to be competant when speaking about things that affect whether or not people live or do. or to be competant about anything that involves speaking using words. human side = vote winner.

but what of the ganging up? what of the sex card that is hidden in all of this? did Hilary really win in New Hampshire as a result of women feeling slighted on her behalf (or not?)? this is interesting to me – Hilary is groundbreaking, she’s powerful, she’s a hard worker, she knows how some of the show works. this is why she’s a good candidate. she shouldn’t be voted for because she’s a woman only though, same as it’s not worth voting for Obama just because he’s black, or because Ron Paul is small (or is he?). it has to be the policies behind the candidate right? perhaps in my ideal politics world. truth is, I bet, that things are not like that, and that all the little bits of human emotion like this are going to be the real vote winners in the end. speak in loud, bright colours, and emote emote emote. I suspect most of those who are only interested in the policies have already found their man/woman, what’s left for the rest (the majority of Americans?) is what kind of a man/woman do they want. or wait, perhaps I’ve skipped ahead to the election proper…

final word about McCain. the same Newsnight article that I saw with the pollster also spent the final day of campaigning in New Hampshire with the Republican candidates. Huckabee told jokes and was mighty genial, Giullani was frankly chilling in an old folks’ home, Romney looked like he’d lost the campaign in his head already (you could almost see him counting the money he’d spent) and at one point looked and sounded like a kind of robot (Schwarzenegger-style), and McCain looked relaxed and generally pretty happy with things. he also had the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds. as we know, he won. the thing I’m thinking about now is who he (or whatever Republican wins, although I’m certainly thinking it’s going to be McCain at this point, but let’s wait for Super Tuesday) would least like to face: Clinton or Obama. my fourpenneth – Clinton would be far easier for the Republicans to mobilise against…

PS: Susanne – Dave is about to become some sort of medical salesman I think? he’s up in northern England in Reddich, and he informs me that the girls are lovely. if you like peroxide blondes.

Stuart                             Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

After Christmas and the Iowa Caucuses

Added: 5-1-2008 1

been a long time…Christmas and all that, a giant extended period of liver damage and over-consumption of food. I think I excelled on all fronts – turning the the 12 days of Christmas into about 18, seeing the insides of far too many pubs, eating too much cheese – and am now happy to be safely inside the month of January, time of reflection, freezing cold and an estrangement from booze that I hope lasts until February.

no entry for a while due to Christmas and the continuing business of settling into the Netherlands. there’s been plenty to think about regarding the fallout from our US walk however, not least the problem/opportunity of how we are going to get our video footage into a presentable televisual format, and also the long march towards getting the plans laid for the writing of a book. there has been progress on both fronts but, as ever, life gets in the way. I had a meeting with some friends in London in December about getting some of our 40 hours of footaged edited down into a sellable ‘teaser’ format – all that we need to do now is get the tapes/footage across the Atlantic Ocean into the hands of someone who can carry out this task. dawdlers that we are, Dave and I have been trying to get this done since last summer but to be fair we know little about how video formats on one side of the pond differ to the other and the whole thing has been a steep learning curve. with no end to it in sight.

still, must remain confident and all that. we’ve made some progress this weekend. bookwise there’s still plenty of planning on my part going on, but truth be told reviewing the entire journal on the website (now running to well over a 100 pages of text) is a time-consuming business and I’ve only scratched the surface of what I need to do. and I haven’t even begun to compile my handwritten journal yet. still, there’s plenty of time, isn’t there?

perhaps not. but at least I now know where I will be undertaking this task. I moved to The Hague here in the Netherlands almost as soon as I got back from the US and began a six month temporary contract with my old employers, the International Federation of Library Associations (they’re hot!). yesterday I was offered a three year position here and it looks very much like this is where I will be undertaking all WTS work in the new future. this is both a relief – God knows I need somewhere to live and be settled after most of the past 18 months in a tent, or on people’s floors – and a challenge, in that I know that writing a book with a full-time job is likely to be a horrendous task that is going to present some nightmare obstacles. in the end I came down on the side of a firm base: at least I can set up some sort of writing HQ and hope everything will flow from there. better than writing from a park bench.

in other news…well, US readers (are there any of you still out there? Connie, apologies for not keeping this up) and pretty much anyone else with an eye on world affairs/future of mankind etc. can’t have failed to notice that the US Presidential Election began in earnest this week with the Iowa Caucuses. we were in the US for the Mid-terms in November 2006 and I have to say that, while Dave and I would not claim to be reliable in any of our claims for US politics, the change that we felt people longing for back then certainly came through in the Iowa results.

first: Barak Obama. we’ve been in the same room as him, the day we met Muhammad Ali (see Journal entry for 15th October 2006). his appearance was quite electrifying, to be honest – the whole room kinda exploded. or got hotter. one of the two. anyway, I was particularly interested in the way people viewed Obama’s presidential bid as we went across, and I thought that people were generally positive. I guess what I was really interested in was whether white rural folks would consider voting for him and the feedback that we got, where we got it, was that it would be entirely possible. to give just one example, we met a white fella in the backwoods of southern Illinois, a real good old boy type I guess you could say, and he was able to be racist one minute about his co-workers at the car plant and the in next minute state that he could be convinced to vote for Obama. I think Obama was seen as being genuine, a nice plus for any political candidate…

saying that, by the time we left at the end of November my general impression was really that Hilary was almost a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. shows how on the money I am – well, at least in terms of the Iowa results it does. Hilary had the recognition (she was always ‘Hilary’) and the advantage of Bill Clinton still being extremely popular amongst Democrats (I should point out that Bill was generally hated by the serious Republicans we met). people knew (or thought they knew) what she stood for from the east coast to the west, something that never came across in relation to Obama, or John Edwards. her poor showing in Iowa was therefore a little surprising to me, but then again perhaps I was just as blinded by the media’s reporting of her nomination being ‘unstoppable’ and ‘inevitable’ as anyone else. still, the whole thing isn’t over yet, not by a long chalk.

so on to Mike Huckabee. well, he wasn’t even on our radar for nearly the entire crossing of the US. our Republican conversations mostly revolved around Giuliani, Romney and, at one point, the inevitabilty of Thompson (who would have thought that Thompson, with all his media profile and potential momentum, would turn out to be such a sloth?!) as the Republican nominee due to his favour amongst the Evangelicals. well, in terms of Iowa we were right about the power of mobilising those religious folks – Huckabee certainly worked that well. quite how it will play in New Hampshire is another matter though – I would suggest that he’s not going to do quite so well there. nevertheless, his rise is fascinating for the entire Presidential contest – put his win alongisde Obama’s and it is possible to speculate that the American people really do want change this time, and that a real break with the past could occur. whether that break will take the form of a Republican nominee who believes in creationism over evolution is another matter (although it would be fascinating to see how the actual election of such a fellow would be received in Europe (nb. George Bush might well believe in creationism, so we might already have a President who thinks that way, but as we all know, George keeps his cue cards close to his chest)).

so, an extremely interesting week. I need a subject to keep me blogging on here so I guess next up it’s New Hampshire. that’s on Tuesday I think, so I’ll try to check back in around that time and write something else. all I can think of concluding at this point is, in relation to what we saw during our crossing, it might just be that some of the discontent we felt amongst voters on both sides could really translate into something of great benefit to America and the rest of us who do our thing in their big, funky shadow.

Stuart                             Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

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